Breaking up is hard to do
States’ rights, states’ wrongs
“Uncivil Action,” by Jonathan Turley (November 2010), nicely portrayed both sides of the argument for and against secession by the Southern states. The article alludes to the fact that the main justification for secession—the American Revolution—placed states in the same position as the Constitution’s framers. But this justification should be explicitly stated: The 13 original colonies seceded from England to establish a new government to better serve their citizens. Therefore, the right for a people to secede must be admitted or else the United States would have to acknowledge that it was formed illegally. If the right existed for the 13 colonies, it would also exist for the Confederate States of America.
Edward M. Cahill
In reference to “Uncivil Action”: If it is to be understood that the Constitution gives to the federal government only those powers designated by the states, reserves all other powers to the states, and the federal government has not been given the power to secede a state from the union, then that power of secession remains with the states.
I’m curious why Mr. Turley did not bring up Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly lays out what individual states can and cannot do: “No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation….” I believe that the formation of the Southern Confederacy is a violation of this clause. This section also declares that “No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace…”—another violation of the Constitution by the state of South Carolina prior to firing on Fort Sumter. Why is everyone afraid to bring this up? Is this a forbidden fruit or something?
The heart of the matter
There seems to be some confusion about what caused the Civil War (Letters, November 2010). In my 50 plus years as a student of the war, a re-enactor and a portrayer of Union Maj. Gen. Edward O.C. Ord, one cold clear fact has come down to me: Slavery was the cause. What “states’ rights” were being violated? Only one: The right to possess as property people of another race for financial gain. The reasons individual soldiers fought were merely complications caused by the initial domino, slavery. Why is America in denial?
James A. Pabian
Spring Green, Wis.
Lookout Mountain memories
Thank you for the article “Shooting Above the Clouds” about Lookout Mountain (November 2010). My husband and I were driving through the mountains on a September night 60-plus years ago, on our honeymoon, when the lights went out on our car. My husband grabbed a spare fuse and inserted it, and the lights came back on. But we were scared they might go out again and stopped at the first hotel we came to and spent the night. I don’t believe there were any road signs in those days indicating what had happened at Lookout Mountain. Now I know the story.
Elaine Manzke Eagon
I read with dismay the articles “Tech revolution coming to Gettysburg” and “Education that spans generations” in your November 2010 issue. Both articles promote the use of super-duper high-tech gadgets at historical sites to engage the younger generation, whose eyes “glaze over after the first 20 minutes…of a traditional guided tour.” Is it any wonder that these same students are unable to focus for any length of time in order to master a skill in school or pass an exam that requires some concentration? If you want to help our country, stop dumbing down everything. You can include some gadgets to make it fun. But gadgets cannot replace the traditional guided tour with its treasures of historical trivia. Our children will live up—or down—to what we demand of them. Don’t sell them short. And don’t bore me out of my mind with glitz and glitter without substance, or I’ll stop visiting sites, too!
New Haven, Conn.
Antietam? No biggie
There it is, in bold letters on the cover of my September 2010 issue of America’s Civil War: “Antietam, the war’s most important battle.” I read and re-read the article to determine its origin, but could find no basis for the claim. On what grounds does the magazine make such an audacious assertion?
Sure, Antietam is where Robert E. Lee suffered his first defeat. The battle that allowed Abraham Lincoln to issue his Emancipation Proclamation, which in turn dissuaded foreign powers from recognizing the Confederacy. But so what? The war raged on.
I would argue that the Battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864, is the single most important battle of the Civil War. It did not have the most men engaged, produce the greatest number of casualties or include either side’s most prominent commanders. Yet no other battle would have resulted in such significant consequences had the outcome gone the other way.
If Confederate General John Bell Hood had won, would Union General Ulysses S. Grant have been forced to abandon Petersburg, Va., to deal with the Army of Tennessee? Grant, in his memoirs, even stated: “I was never so anxious during the war as at that time.” The Union was broke and sales of war bonds were lagging. In 1864, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton confided to Lincoln: “The rebellion must be suppressed in the coming campaign or the effort abandoned.”
A Confederate victory at Nashville might have tipped the scale toward a negotiated peace. But Union General George Thomas defeated Hood, and then chased him all the way back to Alabama. Within a month, Hood was relieved of command and his remaining soldiers parceled out to other armies.
Otherwise, we all might need passports to travel between the United States and the Confederate States of America.
Originally published in the January 2011 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.